Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Human Rights Watch

As part of my job, I see a lot of books come across my desk. I can't possibly read them all, but a quick glance of the titles is enough to make me depressed sometimes. We all know that there are sad things happening all over the world, but Human Rights Watch actually specializes in documenting those sad things and then they send those books out to libraries and other people who buy them. Think life in the U.S.A. sucks? Look at some of these titles, and maybe you will get a different perspective on things--

"All The Men Have Gone"
War Crimes in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon Conflict

"As If They Fell From the Sky"
Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia

"Bullets for Each of You"
State-Sponsored Violence since Zimbabwe’s March 29 Elections

"So Much to Fear"
War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia

"They Shot at Us as We Fled"
Government Attacks on Civilians in West Darfur in February 2008

"You Can Detain Anyone for Anything"
Iran’s Broadening Clampdown on Independent Activism

A Question of Life or Death
Treatment Access for Children Living With HIV in Kenya

Denied Status, Denied Education
Children of North Korean Women in China

And there are many, many more. There were 82 reports published in 2008 alone, a few about the US, but mostly about other countries. If you go to the Human Rights Watch website you can find long lists of these and they aren't expensive. Depressing to read or skim through though. Even the covers of some of them are enough to evoke emotions. There are stories of "unaccompanied migrant children" in Turkey and Greece. Okay, we can't call them orphans because we don't know if their parents are really dead or if they just didn't make it across the border with these kids. There are stories of little girls being exploited all over the world, and stories of refugees being beaten and abused by the countries they are fleeing from and then again by the countries that they are fleeing to escape. Horrible, sad, stories of injustice all over the globe. If you thought you life was bad, these are real eye-openers and tear-jerkers.

Happy Holidays!

Suppose every blog is supposed to say something about the holidays, isn't it?

We had a nice white Christmas, with plenty of snow still on the ground from the previous snowfall that we got over the weekend. Abby was scared of Santa, but got everything she wanted (she had a short list, but we had a longer one for her). It was a simple day. We stayed home and my dad came over in the afternoon in between lunch and supper. Nothing fancy etc.

Christmas Eve day we worked in the morning and brought Abby with us. We spent the afternoon together, and after Abby finally lay down for a nap, I scrambled to get some of the wrapping done. When she finally went to sleep for the night (after 10pm!) we finished wrapping and helping Santa with his projects.

On Friday, December 26th we made the rounds to the nursing homes to visit my grandmothers. Looked for some after Christmas sales but didn't find much. We had the day off from work since daycare was closed.

Saturday was another day when Abby didn't want to nap so we drove to Connecticut thinking she would nap in the car. It didn't work, so we ended up in East Hartford at Cabela's. Our first visit there and it was fun.

Sunday was a recovery day of sorts. No plans, and we did try to get Abby to nap at a near normal time. She had fun playing with her trains and other new toys too.

We still need to exchange gifts with a couple of friends, but otherwise we are hoping for more snow and some snow days so Abby can play outside. She really loves the winter!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whitebelt: a 21st century rules engine

Attention Game Masters and Role Playing Game Players-

Whitebelt Productions, LLC has finally published their long awaited role playing game system. Aaron Addison and his friend and business partner Timothy Gilkes have been working on this project for over 10 years, and this week their book was finally released. Congratulations guys!

If you have a dice and paper role player on your holiday shopping list, or if you are a RPG player yourself, then head on over to their website and find out how you can buy a copy through Lulu.com.

Am I biased? Maybe a little. My name is in the credits somewhere. :-) It's a great game though. These guys have been play testing it for years and making sure that everything is as perfect as it can be for the ultimate game system.

Here's the link folks--


Friday, December 5, 2008

another quick poem, just because I'm feeling old today

Just a few thoughts this morning

My husband parks the car down below
My arthritic knees protest as I climb three flights of stairs
to the daylight up above
My asthmatic lungs cough and voice the knees protesting words
and I begin my walk to the tower,
and then climb back down below the ground
I spend my day processing papers, reading books, viewing the world
through my computer screen, only briefly glancing at
the daylight, sunshine, rain, and snow
by five o'clock it is dark again, and I climb back up
and then back down to the car again.
My daughter's classroom is brightly lit
her smile when she sees me is brighter still
a picture with markers and stickers,
and a hug and a kiss
that's why I do all this (I know).

-----------------------end it there or add more later? I know it's not very good and needs to be revised, but it's a start at least.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

another writing excerise- objects/things

Again about shoes. I don't know why... here goes...

Writing about Places and object, or things... another writing exercise

There are many suggestions in this exercise about places or objects to write about. I'm going to attempt to write about 3 different pairs of shoes. Not sure how far I'll get, or how well I will do. I must admit this is fiction as the stories about the shoes are not completely true.

They are a black pair of sandals in a man's size, purchased in Maine maybe to replace the pair I had worn out before them. The older pair had been many places, and this pair has begun to journey as well. The older ones were easy to pack, did well in airports, and survived in hot weather or in the rain. The older ones were black and blue. They went with me to Brussels in the rain, and got wet while I wore an ugly poncho in the cathedrals there. They went with me to Venice and supported me as I walked along the cobblestone canals. And they went with me to Spain where we saw 5 cities in 10 days, absolutely insane!

The newer sandals have not left the country, but they have traveled well. We have been to Nevada, to the Black Rock desert together twice. They have been to Florida and New York City, and to the beach more times than I can count. They got a lot of use when I was pregnant and my feet began to swell, and more use still when I came home. I like these newer sandals and they have become more worn. They can tell of a cross-country road trip in a rented pick-up truck, and of arriving in Las Vegas at 6am. They know of love, and home, and all these goods. They get carried around the house on days when I do not need them by a little girl who thinks I have small feet. They have many more years of traveling and memories in them I am sure.

The shoes I wear today are sneakers, purchased at the local mall. They are permanently laced and stretched out to be comfortable. I can slip them on and off even when I don't have a free hand. They smell like sneakers do of course. White with a little bit of pink, but mostly they are the color of sand, and maybe there is a hole or two emerging underneath the threads. They do not make my feet sweat. I do not touch the outsides much since they slide on so easily. Inside my feet feel soft and cushy. They let me walk quietly except when it rains and then I am doomed to squeak down the hallway of the quiet library. I bought them when I knew I'd be in an airport, burdened with a stroller, 4 carry-ons, and a 2 year old. I needed shoes that would go through security and back on again while my hands were tied up with other things. They served the purpose well. They walked through Epcot and Magic Kingdom and came home to walk the dusty roads near home. They replaced the sandals for the weekend to Martha's Vineyard, in November, in the rain. The memories they carry are all recent ones, and all seem layered with the word "mom". My husband is always surprised when I get anything pink, but the pink is faded and somewhat hidden, and perhaps that is another clue as to who I am too.

the end.

Writing about people- fiction- writing exercise

Writing about people- Writing Exercise-- not posted on writing class yet, having trouble with website

this piece is fiction.
What is the essence of the person you want to portray?
Followed by some questions
and an example of the "Portrait of Jack"
so here we go.. away from the poem and into the prose
as coworkers dialogues mingle in the distance and I wonder if I will need headphones and music to complete this

He is an old man, only a little bit of hair left on top and it was gray, and cut short. He is tall and thin, and wore patches at the elbows on his shirts. His pants hung loose, although his belt is pulled tight, he still seems to be losing weight. He smells of Old Spice aftershave, mixed maybe with roses and Miracle-Gro. He has a slow way of walking, deliberate, unhurried, and if you look real close you might see a slight limp. His words are not hurried either, and you know when he says something, anything at all, it is important.

"Go Army!" He watches all the college football games on a black and white tv because color might hurt his eyes. When the game is over, he goes out to the gardens and tends the roses and the berries, and finally the vegetables. He rarely climbs aboard the tractor anymore. Cows and corn and hay are his son's business now. These are the years for staying closer to home, on what is left of the homestead. He sleeps in a small room, with a twin bed, a dresser nearby, and a small desk. He doesn't need much. Inside the dresser he stashes the new shirts and clothes that he got on Christmas and on his birthday. He saves envelopes and cracker boxes and old cards. Reading seed catalogs and drinking a Schaffer beer are how he might spend a rainy day. A bowl of soggy corn flakes and a banana for breakfast, and meat and potatoes for supper. The salad is rabbit food. The car he drives is 20 or 30 years old. The passenger seat still reserved for the old beagle who has passed away and never been replaced. It is red, 2 door, looks sporty, but probably never needs to go above 40. He doesn't have far to go these days. The day the old farmhouse burned down, he was sitting in the driveway reading the mail, and he never even looked up until the fire trucks came, by then it was too late. His tenants bought the remains for a cheap price, and he went on living in the double-wide next door. Today he is standing on the front steps looking out over the fields, listening to the church bells, listening and waiting.

the end

letter to my grandmother- more fiction

Grandma, I miss you. I know you are still alive, but since you live in a nursing home now, it's hard to reach you. And since you can't hear well anymore it is hard to talk to you when I see you. You told your son/my uncle not to bother getting you a phone because you can't hear people when they call you anyway. Sigh. I remember when I used to call you so often I had your number memorized. I still have it memorized from so long ago. But you haven't had that house in many years. I think you sold it when I was 22 or 23 years old. Another lifetime, or two ago. You and my father had phone numbers that were very similar, only the last 2 digits were different, and sometimes I would call you by mistake, but I usually found something to say anyway. I miss you, and you aren't even dead. I try to write, but it's hard to find the time, and sometimes I don't have much to say. I just want to reach out to you and say something quick. I love you I'm thinking of you. My allergies are bothering me, but I am otherwise well. I wish I could call you to say I was coming for a visit. What day would be good? Instead I'll have to surprise you, and hope that my timing is okay. I hate "dropping in" like that, but I never know when I call the nursing home whether or not you are really getting the messages I leave anyway. I have some pictures for you. Will you have room for them? Should I put them in a photo album for you? Or frame them so you can hang them on the wall? I used to see you every week, but now there is so little to say, and so many other things to do that I don't visit as much. But I think of you every day. You are 90 years old now, soon to be 91. Amazing, and I miss you. How old were you when we slid down the hill in the toboggan? How old were you when you washed my hair in the kitchen sink? Or read stories to me? I miss you Grandma. You used to be so great, and I know in my heart that you still are. Love, your granddaughter

Some fiction-- The box- written for a writing class

There was a box in my living room. I wasn't supposed to open it. Christmas was coming. It's all wrapped up. The UPS guy left it on the front porch yesterday. I looked for a return address, but couldn't find one. My husband carefully opened it last night and then sealed it back up after I had gone to bed. He told me this morning "Don't touch it. Wait." So I'm waiting and wondering. It's just an average sized box. Nothing rattles when I shake it. It's not too heavy, or too light. What could be inside? My mother likes to send odd gifts. She has sent some nice stuff, and some really bad stuff over the years. One year I got her back. I sent her 2 big boxes for Christmas. The first box had many presents all carefully wrapped, and lovingly selected. The second box had 2 pennies and a can of tuna fish. It said "Don't open until Christmas". So I am looking at this box. Is it a can of tuna fish and 2 pennies? Or maybe deep inside is the new wedding ring my husband promised me. The box is so big though. It couldn't possibly be either of those, could it? Perhaps a new bathrobe and a pair of slippers. That would be nice. Our house is always cold in winter, and I am up so often at night with the child who can't sleep, and the husband who snores. Maybe my in-laws sent us toys for the kid, or maybe a grandmother sent cookies. Could it be cookies? I take a sniff. I hope not. If there are cookies inside, then they are stale by now! I wonder... did my husband go on a big shopping trip for himself, and he doesn't want me to know what he bought? Or did the publisher send 100 copies of our friend's book to us by mistake? What is inside that box? Who sent it? Where did it come from? The wrapping is simple, pretty, but untraceable. The ribbon is store-bought. What has my friend Jo been up to lately? Could she have crafted something? I sit and wait. My daughter ignores the box. She doesn't seem interested in it one bit. My husband allowed himself to look, but won't let me. The box sits there for a week, until it is finally Christmas eve. On Christmas eve we all open one gift. I surprise my husband though, and I resist. I open another gift instead. Whatever is inside the box can wait.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

quick poem- Inside my Coat Pockets

Inside my coat pockets
the beginning of a poem
I pull out a refrigerator magnet
shaped like a pink frog
or Martha's Vineyard
next I find an old camera
with no pictures left of course
and what do we have over here?
some used Kleenex and a crumbled paper bag
where did this old watch come from?
ah, the orange bottle cap that inspired me
to write this.

That's only pocket one, let me go on.
Up here we have some seashells
mixed in with some sand.
And over here, let me look:
a pen, a business card, and some directions
a flashlight, a bottle of aspirin, and some fruit snacks
a quarter, a receipt, and some hand cream
and more and more fruit snacks.
I have no idea why.

And finally, the last one:
another bottle cap, a bit more kleenex,
my cell phone, and some car keys,
and of course a credit card and some ID.
These are the memories I keep.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Martha's Vineyard

We took a quick trip to Martha's Vineyard over the weekend.

It was a LOOONG trek to get there from our little town in the woods of Western Massachusetts. Road work and an accident didn't help the traffic either. By the time we got to Wood's Hole, got parking, and took the shuttle back to the port, we were ready to board the last ferry of the day.
We were greeted by friends of my husband who chauffeured us off to Edgartown to use a one-bedroom apartment as our base camp. Saturday morning we headed off for breakfast at Edgartown Pizza, and then we drove DH to visit friends in West Tisbury. I left him there and took Abby for some sightseeing in Edgartown. Did I mention that the guy who lent us the apartment, also lent me his pick-up truck AND set me up with a car seat for Abby?? Nice guy! Anyway, I had never been to the Vineyard before, and DH didn't let me do much planning, so I had no clue and no map. I just followed road signs, and called DH on my cell phone whenever I needed directions. First I took Abby down to the pier. We watched the seagulls and the boats for a while, and saw a little ferry that held only 3 cars going back and forth across to Chappy maybe. Then we wandered through some of the streets admiring the fall leaves and the old houses with the widow's peaks. Finally we hit a store called the Leaping Frog where we bought a couple of t-shirts (one for Abby, and one for her friend Toby), and a bucket and a shovel. I called DH and told him we were going to head for the lighthouse and hope it had a beach. A quick check with his friends though, and we were steered away from that plan and told to head in the direction of South Beach instead. We did. It was very quiet there, no boats. Just the sand and the ocean and a few birds. Despite a big "No dogs" sign, we found several people bringing their 4 legged friends with them. I protested a few times, to no avail, and finally Abby and I retreated (with a pocket full of seashells) inland a bit to where the bathrooms had been in the summertime. Abby had a great time playing in the bathroom pavilion area, and we stayed for several hours.

A 6 and a HALF year old girl was bored and wandered in our direction several times, asking me little questions. She was quite surprised that Abby was only 2 1/2 years old. She thought she was big enough to be 5 years old, and thought Abby shouldn't be wearing diapers anymore.

Anyway, we ventured back to the water to wash off a bottle cap that Abby had found, and after watching the tide come and go a few times, I took a few steps forward. A few too many steps forward! Abby and I both got our feet drenched!! As it was already past lunchtime, I was eager to use this as an excuse to head back into town for some lunch. So we headed for Main Street.

I drove right past the Chinese restaurant, and had to call my husband again for directions. It was there, right where it was supposed to be, I just hadn't seen the camouflaged sign the firs time. Abby and I got lunch specials, with plenty of food leftover. Then we went to the grocery store for fresh fruits and munchies. We got back to the apartment around 4pm or so, and settled in for the night.

Abby took a bath, and I made some supper and we spent the evening playing games and watching Caillou. She crashed out at her usual bedtime, and I went to bed soon after. My husband came back around midnight I guess.

Sunday morning we took our time packing up. Abby snacked on the munchies and fruit for her breakfast, and we said goodbye to our friend's mother as she was hanging up her laundry. Then we drove down to the Main Street diner and got some breakfast for my husband and I. I wasn't too surprised that Abby wouldn't eat since she had already eaten. She did like the strawberries though so we got some got more of those. We took her $6 pancake with us and walked down to the pier and fed it to the seagulls. One last look at the boats, and a quick peek into a store or two, and we were done.

We drove up to West Tisbury and said goodbye to DH's friends. Got Abby out to see the horses and the dogs, in the fences too. Then we asked our friend to drive us to the ferry. Got down there at the wrong time, and had to wait about a half hour before we could leave. Eventually we made it though. Abby got more fresh fruit on-board, and we had fun looking out the window watching the other boats and the birds.

It was another LOOONG trip home. Road work, a bad accident, and Patriot's game traffic slowed us down a bit too. We stopped at a McDonald's somewhere before we got on 495 and got a late lunch/early supper. Abby wasn't too interested in eating though. When we finally got her back in the car it wasn't long before she fell asleep. Got home before 7pm, and figured Abby would be awake for a while, but she went right back to sleep and slept through the night pretty much. (It's been a long time since I've seen her sleep for 12 hours!)

Anyway, that was our trip to Martha's Vineyard. My husband had been before, many years ago, but it was my first trip. Enjoyed the visit, although it was brief. The TO and FROM was a hassle (especially dealing with all our luggage, stroller, etc on the shuttles and the ferry), but it was still fun.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politics one more time

So the election is over. Obama won. In some states it was very close, but in Massachusetts I think he had it locked in for a long time. So despite my protests, Biden is going to be Vice President. And there is rumor that our own Gov. Duval Patrick may be the next Attorney General. Don't expect updates here, I probably won't follow the story much.

In the end, Ron Paul endorsed a candidate from the Constitution Party. I read about the guy, and decided that he was a bit too extreme on the issue of illegal immigration. I really don't like the idea of declaring war on the borders and just shooting every Mexican who comes across the border without a the proper paperwork. So Ron Paul didn't get my vote, and neither did the guy he endorsed. Ralph Nader was running again, but I didn't vote for him either. Ultimately I gave my vote to the Libertarians. I don't always agree with them, but they seem a bit stronger than the Green-Rainbow party, and a bit stronger than the other "third parties" as well. I really think this country needs a strong third party and the Libertarians are doing the best job getting on the ballots of the most states. So I voted for Bob Barr. Of course he didn't win, and I think his website is gone now too, but Obama was going to win all the electoral votes in Massachusetts anyway so it didn't really matter. I was casting a vote for the future to try to help the Libertarians.

On the ballot questions in Massachusetts, we did have one victory that surprised me. Changes in how the possession of marijuana charges will be dealt with. Congratulations on that!! We will no longer be tying up court rooms and jail space with people who are busted for having a joint or two on them. Pay the fine, and whatever, and be done. Keep your student loan, keep your good reputation, and move on with life. Thank you voters for that one!

I was torn on the dog racing question but not surprised that the two tracks will be closed. The folks trying to ban it did a better campaigning effort than the people trying to keep the tracks open. I was not surprised that Question 1 was defeated. I think everyone knows that eliminating the state income tax is ridiculous. Our schools and towns need the money, and if we eliminate those taxes we will all suffer the consequences in one way or another.

Question 4 varied from town to town so I won't go into that. D0esn't matter much anyway. It is what it is, depending on where you are.

I think a lot has been said about Obama and the presidential election so I'll leave it for others to talk about. I know many people just wanted a Democrat in office and didn't care whose name was on the ballot. Others wanted to see a black person in office and voted that way. With the economy being the mess that it is, I don't have high hopes that he will be able to work miracles. Many people thought that the new governor in Massachusetts would work miracles because he was a black Democrat too, but he is dealing with the reality of the economy just like everyone else. I'm sure the same will be true of Obama.

Oh, and one more thing... at least it's not Hilary! Got my wish there at least. :-)

That's all for now. I hope to get back to other things soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Needing to post more often!

How sad that it was 2 weeks between postings again. I really am trying to post here more often. I even signed up for a writing class at the university, which requires us to keep a journal, just so I'd have an excuse to write more often. Sigh. Things have been so crazy. Budget cuts for the university are coming, my family is still dealing with daycare transitions, and the holidays are coming soon. I have lots to write about. I just need time to get it posted here. I will soon. I promise, promise, promise....

Goodbye Jeffrey Amherst Bookshop

It was a great sadness that I learned this week that the Jeffrey Amherst Bookshop (in Amherst, MA) will soon be closing. This locally owned bookstore has been a landmark for many, many years and generations. The owners aren't going broke, they are just ready to retire and can't find a buyer. What a shame! I am hoping that something will come through in the last minute and the bookstore will continue, but I can tell from speaking with the owners that they aren't counting on it.

So goodbye Howard and Joy! Thank you for all your hard work, and for your many gifts to the community. You've been a wonderful support to the Jones Library and to the W.E.B. DuBois Library at Umass as well. We will miss you dearly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good politics- Same sex marriage ruling in Connecticut

It's nice to see some good politics for a change. I'm so sick of the presidential campaigning etc., especially since I don't like the leading candidates. Anyway, I was very pleased to see the headlines just now saying that Connecticut is going to allow same sex marriages. About time! I don't know if I've said it here before, but I believe that same sex marriage should be legalized everywhere. I even gave a speech about it in my college years in one of my classes. This issue has been around for a long time, and I know for a lot of people it's been a long battle. Glad to see a victory! Here's one link to one of the stories today--

Congratulations Connecticut!!

Tommy Devine

I saw a write-up in our local student newspaper about a guy named Tommy Devine. Seems that this guy has a habit of working on his blog not far from my desk. We've never met before but I'm sure I've seen him as an anonymous person sitting at one of the computers in our Learning Commons. So I'm adding his blog to my list on the right side. Just because. I don't think that many folks are reading my blog, but if I can give this guy a little more fame, any little bit helps. Right?

Also I used his blog as a jumping off point to find a lot of other local blogs and sites. I've included some of those in my list now too. I had no idea how much blogging actually happens in this library. Actually I've always suspected that quite a bit happens on My Space and Facebook, but I just always assumed it was mostly the under-30 crowd doing it. I didn't realize that others were here doing it too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Random art in the library this morning

Staff and patrons were surprised to find this on the Main floor of the Umass library this morning. We don't know who did it or why, but I think it's pretty cool. The picture isn't perfect. The guy isn't wearing a hat. The whiteness is the shirt of the person sitting behind the sculpture. The library is open 24 hours so we're not sure when this was done, or who did it. Obviously someone with some free time on their hands. I hope it stays for a while. I like it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Florida Trip Report

Florida- Disney Trip Report
DH, 2 year old dd, and myself. September 12-September 20, 2008

Friday, September 12th- Arrival, Downtown Disney, Sheraton Vistana
We flew on Delta, nonstop BDL to MCO. No complaints about Delta. We boarded easily, left on time, and arrived early in both directions. DH was cramped, but we knew he would be. DD had the window seat and did fine. I did think that TSA was a bit harsh on people in wheelchairs. We saw them make people get out of the wheelchairs to get through the metal detector. Um, hello???? That's both mean and dumb. Someday someone is going to fall and get hurt, and TSA is going to get sued. People are in wheelchairs for a reason, making them get out is dangerous and silly. Use a hand wand to go over them if you are really worried that they might have a bomb in their pockets or something. I mean really! DD wasn't happy about getting out of her stroller and taking off her shoes, but we just dealt with the tantrum and carried her through. The process goes pretty quickly if you are organized, and DH and I worked together to be as efficent as possible so we didn't hold up the line too much.

We arrived at MCO 30 minutes early, got our luggage quickly and easily, and got on the shuttle bus for Hertz. We booked with Hertz through AAA because it was a good rate, and because they also gave us a free car seat for dd. (Other places charge about $9/day). I had never rented from Hertz before, but I've seen the ads and figured they would be good. Well, here I was wrong. Hertz was the worst customer service of our trip. When we got there, there was a long line to check-in. When we finally got the keys, the clerk handed me a car seat which we had to lug out to the parking lot, along with all of our luggage, to the rental car. When we finally got everything out there, about 4 rows back, we couldn't get the trunk of the car open. Plus the car was all scratched up etc. In short, not acceptable. So I took dd and went back inside. DD was being a typical 2 year old, and while I tried to keep her under control, it took about 5 different people from Hertz before I found one who would help me. Then we were directed to another car, on the opposite side of the parking lot. DH had to go get all of our luggage plus the car seat, and bring it over to the new car. It took a while of course. When we finally got there, the car seemed nice enough, but it had a GPS that we had not signed up for. The agent assured us that we would not be charged for it. I really hope he was right. So we finally get loaded up, and go to leave, only to have to stop at the security gate and do even MORE paperwork. The whole process took us about 2 hours, way too long!! My dd was bouncing off the walls by the time we were done. Plus we were late meeting my mother.

The plan was to meet my mom at Old Town in Kissimmee. I had printed directions from Google, we had the Hertz Neverlost GPS, and DH had his GPS with him. Unfortunately none of them had the Hertz location listed correctly so we got lost. We ended up back at the airport, and then finally got to where we were supposed to meet my mom. She'd been waiting for an hour. We had lunch at the A&W place and wandered around the tourist shops and let dd go on a ride. It was very hot and humid, in the 90s. After a few hours, we said goodbye to my mom and headed over to the Sheraton Vistana.

We were a little early for our check-in, and dd was too tired for us to go anywhere else. So we hung out in the lobby until DH could get our room keys. Then we found our villa, which was conveniently near the elevator, and got dd down for a nap. We checked out the place, and sent DH off to the convenience store located on the grounds. He came back with milk, soda, and munchies. When it was time for supper, we realized we were very close to Downtown Disney, maybe about a mile away. Hooray!

We had supper at McDonald's, and dd made a hat out of her Happy Meal box. Then we went to the Lego store to use our Gift Card and buy a gift for a friend etc. After that we did a little more wandering and shopping, before returning to the Lego store one more time, and then finally heading back to the Sheraton. I should say I was very pleased to find a blender in the kitchen. I was able to chop up ice cubes for dd to eat. She loves shaved ice at home, and this was a great treat for her. I also liked having 2 bathrooms too. We didn't use the hot tub since we were only there for one night, but I would have used it if we stayed longer. The place wasn't as big and roomy as the other place that we stayed at for the rest of the trip, but it was way better than an average hotel room. Thumbs up!!

I got lost in the Sheraton grounds. There is more than one security gate, and they all look the same. As a result, we got quite a tour of the place. We saw the little playgrounds and some of the pools, etc. There sure are a lot of villas there, and they are packed in tightly together. We finally made it back, and got settled in for the night.

Saturday, September 13th- checkout of Sheraton, Magic Kingdom, checkin Mystic Dunes
We had a light breakfast in the room for dd, and packed up. Did Express checkout around 9:30am, just as Housekeeping was getting antsy (checkout is at 10am). DD had woken up early in the morning, and then fallen back to sleep, so we had to load a sleeping little girl into the car. We got to Magic Kingdom, and dd perked up as we were getting out of the car in the parking lot. We had an ADR for a character lunch at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and Friends. Before that we went on the Jungle Cruise and saw the Country Bear Jamboree. After lunch we went over to the Main Street railroad station and did a full loop on the train. We took the boat in both directions to and from the parking lot. After the train ride, dd was pretty tired and it was evident that she wasn't going to nap in her stroller, so we headed off to Mystic Dunes Golf Club & Resort to check-in.

When we arrived at Mystic Dunes, dd was asleep in the car. DH went in to do the check-in stuff. Our friends are owners there, and lent us their week at their 2 bedroom villa. Very nice of them! We got their regular unit, which DH and I had stayed in before in 2005, when I was pregnant with dd. By the time check in was over and everything, dd was awake. We got to the unit with the guest service representative, and listened to his speil etc, and got settled in. There was a light out in the kitchen, and this necessitated a phone call by the rep to get it fixed. Communication is not the strong-suit of this place. Someone came and fixed the light pretty quickly, but we must have had about 5 phone calls from various departments checking to see if the work had been done. Every day we got phone calls inviting us to the bar or the restaurant for whatever activity was happening. Our guest rep really pressured us to have breakfast with him, we finally committed, and then forgot about it and didn't reschedule. There was no way we were going to sit through a breakfast with him with our 2 year old dd. Just wasn't going to happen. Later in the week our dd managed to lock us all out of the Guest bedroom, where our clothing and her diapers were. We called maintenance, and no one answered. We called the front desk and were told someone would be over in a few minutes. No one showed. We called back, and someone from Security showed up pretty quickly. After the door was open, I took dd to the pool. While we were gone, DH took a shower and was surprised by a maintanence guy coming in to unlock the bedroom door. So communication at this place really needs improvement. Aside from that, and the constant phone calls, we really enjoyed our stay. The villa was great. Very roomy and nice. DD liked the big hot tub, and the screened in patio. We went grocery shopping Saturday night and got some popsicles, milk, bottled water, and other groceries. We did supper at some bad Chinese buffet place on Highway 192 before we got the groceries. Got to bed a little late, but were glad to finally be "home". DH and dd really enjoyed the very large tv in the living room, and I enjoyed the nice big sofas too. DH also liked having the washer and dryer in the kitchen, and I was surprised at how much I ended up using them too. We were about 10-15 minutes from the parks, and a little further away from things than I'd like to be, but the place was very roomy and comfortable. Definitely felt blessed that our friends were willing to share it with us. I wouldn't spend $200/night to stay there, but if I could get a decent rate I'd go back.

Meanwhile, my MIL and her friend Gail checked into another hotel late Saturday night. I never saw Gail during their visit. They stayed in Orlando/Kissimmee until Wednesday. My MIL refused to go to any of the parks with us though, so we only saw her for dinners.

Sunday, September 14th- Animal Kingdom
The zoo! We didn't do much for breakfast, but headed off to Animal Kingdom around 9am or so. Got a parking spot close enough that we didn't even need the tram to get to the gate. Got in, and headed off to Africa right away. I was eager to do the Safari ride. We did that, and then got snacks at the fruit stand nearby. Weren't sure what to do next, but dd answered the question by falling asleep for a nap! We wandered over near Asia, but decided to go to the Baby Care Center. A very nice baby place in this park. We brought dd in, in her stroller, to an air conditioned room and let her sleep. Meanwhile, DH went back out and got a turkey leg and did some shopping. When he came back, I did a little shopping. When dd finally woke up, a couple of hours later, we went to Dino-land and got lunch at Restaurantasoursus or whatever it was called. Had a typical burger/nugget/fries meal, and then stopped at the Kidcot station nearby. DD wasn't interested though so we went to the Boneyard, which was a big play structure for the kids. Lots of slides and things to climb on, and a little water area too. We played there for quite a while, and then walked around the rest of the area, before heading out. The big hit of the day was definitely the Safari ride. We went back to Mystic Dunes for popsicles and a break. Even though dd had already had her nap, we still needed a rest. Later we called MIL, and arranged to pick her up and bring her to the Black Angus Steakhouse for dinner (on Highway 192, near Mystic Dunes).

Dinner was okay, dd got antsy before MIL and DH were finished talking so she and I wandered. She liked the decor, but didn't care for her meal much. Then we brought MIL back to her hotel, and called it a night.

Monday, September 15th-Epcot
Light breakfast and snacks before heading off to Epcot. Went straight to the Nemo thing, Seas Pavillion. Not quite what we expected. DD was scared by the darkness of the ride. Had fun looking at the fish afterwards though, and then found our way to the Turtle Talk with Crush show. I think DH and I enjoyed that more than dd. Stopped at the Kidcot station and dd had fun coloring. Really enjoyed the aquariums and had a tough time getting out of there. Then we were off to have lunch in Japan in Future World. We stopped at a water play area along the way, and I thought we might be late getting to Japan for our ADR. Japan was about the furthest we could possibly be for a reservation! We got there though, and then had some confusion trying to find the elevator to the 2nd floor where the restaurant was. We had a nice table looking out over the lagoon, and wonderful food. DD had a kids meal, and I had the tempura. DH enjoyed his sushi. After lunch we knew dd would be getting tired, but we still had to get out of the park. So we stopped in the Japan gift shops and got some chopsticks and then stopped at a shaved ice stand. DH and dd got some nice dessert there. Continued up to China for more shopping, and dd got a nice pair of slippers/shoes, and DH tried to find the RIGHT tea. In Japan and China we went to the Kidcot stations too. We went onwards, stopping occasionally, and then did the Mexico boat ride. DD went on the boat awake, and came off the boat sound asleep. We carried her up to the Baby care station, but there really wasn't anywhere there for her to nap. So we got her settled into the stroller, and then went back toward the main entrance. We stopped at the Electric Umbrella restaurant for some beverages to cool down, and then we headed out. Brought dd back to the room for some popsicles and a break.
Around 6pm we went and picked up MIL and took her to Downtown Disney. I had made some phone calls, and made a reservation for the CrabHouse but it wasn't really what we wanted. We stopped at Planet Hollywood, and made it inside only to discover that it was way too loud for us. Then we stumbled upon a place called Raglan Road, which was an Irish pub type place. Menu looked good, and we were able to get seated right away. I called and canceled our other reservation. DD loved the music at Raglan Road, and DH really enjoyed the food. I ordered the pasta which was okay. Don't remember what MIL got, but she was just happy to visit with DH anyway. After dinner we walked around Downtown Disney, all the way to the Rainforest Cafe. Pretty much wore MIL out, but I wanted to see the place and I thought she'd enjoy visiting with DH. Finally brought her back to her hotel around 9pm.

Tuesday, September 16th- Hollywood Studios
This was our Easy Day. Even though it was only Tuesday, we were about halfway through our trip. I knew there wasn't much at Hollywood Studios for us to do because dd was so young, but I also knew that DH wanted to go. So we headed over around 10am. Saw the Playhouse Disney show, visited some shops nearby while we waited, and then headed over toward the Muppet thing. DH and I debated whether dd would do a 3-D show or not, and decided against it. She didn't really enjoy the Playhouse Disney show and we knew she was tired. We saw some of the Jedi Academy stuff, and got lunch at the Backlot Studios (burgers and fries). Then we went to the Muppet gift shop and looked around there. Decided to head out after that. This took us about 3 hours total. We went back to Mystic Dunes to relax, take a nap, etc. I think this was the day that dd locked the bedroom door, and we checked out the pool.

Around 6pm, we picked up MIL and went to House of Blues at Downtown Disney. This time I spared everyone the tour afterwards. We had a very nice meal, and then hit the gift shop. DD even let MIL hold "her tail" for a while. We tried to go into Virgin store, but there was a band playing inside and it was way too loud. So we called it a night, and brought MIL back to her hotel and said Goodbye.

We used a stroller and a "bear backpack" for dd on this trip. The backpack has a "tail" which a grownup holds so that the child can't get lost in a crowd, etc. DD likes it because it means she doesn't always have to hold someone's hand. I like it because she can burn off some energy without wearing me out.

Wednesday, September 17th-Magic Kingdom (2nd day of MK)
This was a "No Grandma Day" and dd was happy about that. She even panicked a little when I called my mom in the evening (to make plans for the next day). Anyway, the first time through MK, I was fairly relaxed because I figured we could just hit things the "next time". Today we really had to pick and choose what we were going to see. We decided to walk through the park and head over to Mickey's Philharmonic. The first 3-D thing that came flying sent the special glasses off of dd's head, and she went into DH's arms. It was a great show though, and he did calm her down so she could see the show anyway. Then we went on Small World. "Wow Mommy! LOOK!!" I would have done that ride again with her if she had wanted to. She was just such a joy to watch! Lunchtime at Liberty Tree Tavern. Not a character meal, just some basic good cooking in air conditioning. Our waiter was from Massachusetts, and I think other parties in our room were from Massachusetts too. Another table was celebrating a birthday, and dd was disappointed that we didn't get any birthday cake. After lunch, we headed for the Merry-Go-Round, but the lines were long. Long lines for the Pooh ride and Dumbo too. Bummer. We found the water play area in front of Arial's grotto though, and dd played there for quite a while "Water! Water! Where are you water?" she said as she leaned over the holes, and then she'd get splashed in the face. She had a blast! We did a little shopping after that, and got an Eyore to bring home. Then we walked through Toontown and boarded the train back to Main Street. I was a little sad to leave without going to the Bakery and a few other things, but it was time to go. We took the monorail back to the parking lot and called it a day. I don't even remember what we did for supper that night. Might have gotten some fast food take out or something. I know we were beat, and didn't want to go back to Downtown Disney. Maybe we did, and ate at McDonald's again.

Thursday, September 18th- Epcot, with Becky's mom (2nd day of Epcot)
Stuff with my mom always has some drama. We had a little trouble coordinating and agreeing on a time. Then my mom called en route and said she was having car trouble. Then she had trouble getting her ticket. We finally all met just inside the gates at Epcot around 10am. This was our second trip to Epcot with dd. We offered to go back to see the fish again, but dd wasn't interested. So we went to Innoventions East and West. When we got to West part, we were greeted at the door by a cast member who told us to hurry inside for a big surprise! We won 2 Dream Fastpasses!! Yay! Well, it would have been a bigger yay if we could have let my mom babysit dd while DH and I went on a ride, but oh well. We decided to use the passes for my mom and I to go on Soarin' in the Land Pavillion. This was an unscheduled stop, but we made time for it. While my mom and I did that, DD and DH found a Mickey bar and got ice cream all over dd from head to tow (and DH has the pictures to prove it). My mom doesn't like flying too much, but I guess she did okay with the ride. I did the ride before in 2005 and was happy to do it again. After that we headed over to the World Showcase for our noontime reservations at the Rose & Crown in United Kingdom. We got there a few minutes early and had time to visit the shops and water fountains nearby. All DH bought was a candy bar I think, if that. We were seated outside on the patio at the Rose & Crown (so much for my plan of an air conditioned lunch). My mom wasn't interested in much on the menu, and wasn't brave enough to ask for something else so she just an appetizer. Meanwhile, we pieced together a turkey sandwich and carrot & celery sticks for dd (had to pay the adult price, but tried to get food she would eat). I enjoyed my Shepards Pie, and I think DH had the Fish and Chips, as well as a pint of Guinness. He was disappointed that the Boots were no longer being offered.

After lunch we toured the other countries. We always skip over Canada and the US. We wandered through the gift shops a little of France and Italy and Japan etc. I think we skipped Morocco. DH wanted us to do the show in China so we did that. 360 degree all around movie that is pretty cool. My mom can't stand for long periods so she brought her stool and sat a bit. DH and I took turns holding dd in our arms. When we came out of the show, we saw the acrobats performing. We were all pretty tired but had to get back to the main gate anyway. We stopped at the drums, whereever they are and dd really enjoyed playing on those for a while. My mom bought dd a Minnie Mouse doll in France, and DH and dd got shaved ice in Japan. We were all pretty tired by the time we got back around the circle. So we didn't do anymore shows. We debated stopping for one last drink or whatever, but it was after 3pm and dd still hadn't napped yet so we just called it a day. I think dd was asleep before we actually got back to the car. We said goodbye to my mother in the parking lot.

We were parked close enough so we didn't need the tram. DH and I were hoping to go back for the night show, or maybe go over to Magic Kingdom for the night show, but it didn't happen. I lost our parking pass for the day anyway when I opened up all the car doors to let the heat out of the car before we climbed in. The heat was taking it's toll on dd and we ended up going back to our villa at Mystic Dunes and making pasta for supper and staying in.

Friday, September 19th- Animal Kingdom (2nd visit, last day of Parks)
Another "No Grandma Day". We had a very early 8:20am breakfast reservation for the Tusker House, and honestly we were probably 20 minutes late. It was too early for us, but I wanted to get to Animal Kingdom before the park opened so we could catch the Safari Ride again early in the day. Anyway, we were still able to get in for our breakfast and dd was terrified of the characters. So I made DH take my picture instead. The pictures didn't come out that great (am I really that fat??), but the food was yummy! And I still tried to have fun. After breakfast we headed to the Safari only to see that the lines were already long so we grabbed Fastpasses and took the train round trip to the Conservation area and back (didn't get off the train). Then we did the Safari ride, and then the Jungle trek. After that we stopped for snacks and shopping before heading off to Asia to do the Trek there. By the time we got halfway through that, dd was getting pretty fussy. She threw a tantrum and DH had to pull her aside for a while. We debated what our next move should be, and decided to just head out and get drive-thru fast food for lunch. We went back to Mystic Dunes to eat and relax, and dd got sick in the afternoon. DH was worried that she was dehydrated. We still had some gift shopping to do so in the evening, when it had cooled down we went to Downtown Disney and tried to get dd to eat some flavored ice. She wouldn't touch the stuff though, so we left and came back to Mystic Dunes. We called her doctor back home and they weren't too concerned. So I left dd and DH in the villa and went out to the drugstore to get a thermometer and some medicine for her. I also filled up the gas tank on the rental car. When I got back she didn't have a fever and wouldn't drink the Pedialyte stuff I got. We did our best to give her some fluids and I heated up the leftover pasta for my own supper.

Saturday, September 20th- Going home day
We packed up our stuff Friday night, and finished early Saturday morning. DD was awake early as usual. We left around 7am I think, and headed for the car rental place and the airport. When we got to Hertz the lady gave us a really hard time about the gas tank not being completely full. "You used gas to get here, didn't you? Then the tank isn't full!" Grr... I wonder how much extra they charged for that. I bet it was a lot. What a rip-off!! We unloaded the car as fast as we could and climbed on the shuttle. Hertz staff didn't help at all, and were pretty rude all around. We got to the airport and printed off our boarding passes and checked our luggage pretty easily. Then it was time to get through Security. I was shocked to see the TSA people making elderly and disabled people get out of their wheelchairs in order to get through the metal detector. How disgraceful!! These people are not terrorists and someone is going to get hurt. DD gave us a hard time about taking her shoes off and getting out of the stroller, but DH and I outmuscled her and got her through. She was fine again once we got to the other side and put her back in the stroller. We stopped at Burger King for breakfast, but no one was really hungry. Gulped down my coffee before we got on the plane. Plane took off a few minutes early. DD was a bit antsy on the plane even with snacks and stuff. I finally made DH get the dvd player out and then she fell asleep. She was still asleep when we landed, but woke up when everyone was getting off the plane. We landed a few minutes early and got our luggage quickly and got out to the car. DH was shocked that it cost us $109.00 for parking (long term parking garage). We got some drive-thru fast food for lunch and started to head home. Got stuck in traffic near the Mass-CT state line, but finally made it home around 3pm. DD was very happy to be home and ran from room to room checking everything out. Before she even went inside she had DH take her for a bike ride while I brought in the suitcases. Then she and I went for another ride down to the beach afterwards. It was like she was rediscovering everything for the first time. Fun to watch definately.

By the next day though she was asking to go back to our "other house" with the big "daddy bathtub". LOL!

And that is our trip!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Overdue for some updates!

Well we had our big Disney trip, and I need to post a trip report about that. That was a great week! Florida was HOT and humid, but doing the Disney parks was lots of fun.

Then we came home, and our daycare provider told us he was going out of business. We were quite surprised as we thought he'd be watching Abby at least through Christmas. We did some juggling and some interviews and visits etc, and quickly found Abby a new place to play. A woman named Michelle will be watching her now. She's got a great big yard, and is really cool about doing crafts and stuff with the kids. Abby's not sure about Michelle's cooking or choice of snacks though, so I'm sending a few goodies from home to help out. Anyway, it was an unexpected transition for us, but we are getting through it. We will miss our old daycare provider a lot though. We hired him before Abby was even born, and were hoping he'd be around until Abby started Kindergarten. Oh well. I'm still in shock that he quit and moved on with his life so suddenly. It just doesn't seem real somehow.

My DH refused to celebrate his birthday recently too. And now we've got a Fall Festival and Columbus Day to look forward to soon. Summer really feels like it is over now.

Anyway, I want to get that trip report done real soon. So be looking for that.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin for VP?

Well I'm not sure what to say on this one. I'm not sure what the Geeks and Nerds think of her. I know she is a member of the NRA, so that will sit well with my DH. However she's pro-life and against gay rights I think, which is typical of Republicans but it doesn't sit well with me. Since she's a governor and not a Senator, she doesn't have the voting record that Obama, Hillary, Biden, and McCain have regarding the Patriot bill and Net Neutrality and everything. She's pretty and smart. Has 5 kids, including a son about to got Iraq and another kid with Down's. Plus I think she is married to a Native American Eskimo or something. I'm sure she will be popular, just as Obama is. Still, when it comes to the ISSUES, I don't think she is going to have my vote. I think she is a good pick for McCain, especially since there are a lot of bitter Hillary supporters out there, but I don't think she's someone I want to support.
Between Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin though, I think this might give McCain some new popularity though. Her inexperience could go for or against them. We'll see in November I guess. Very interesting choice on McCain's part, definitely a better move than choosing Romney would have been. Glad Romney didn't get it, just like I'm glad Hillary didn't get it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Keep Biden out of office!

Geez, the more I learn about these politicians the more scared I am. I will not vote for someone who voted in favor of the Patriot Act. I think I've already said that. My husband suggested I do some research on Biden, and I have. Here's a pretty scary article from CNET:

Joe Biden's pro-RIAA, pro-FBI tech voting record

By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET's Technology Voters' Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP.

That's probably okay with Barack Obama: Biden likely got the nod because of his foreign policy knowledge. The Delaware politician is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee who voted for the war in Iraq, and is reasonably well-known nationally after his presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008.

But back to the Delaware senator's tech record. After taking over the Foreign Relations committee, Biden became a staunch ally of Hollywood and the recording industry in their efforts to expand copyright law. He sponsored a bill in 2002 that would have make it a federal felony to trick certain types of devices into playing unauthorized music or executing unapproved computer programs. Biden's bill was backed by content companies including News Corp. but eventually died after Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, eBay, and Yahoo lobbied against it.


Sen. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, whose anti-encryption legislation was responsible for the creation of PGP.

(Credit: Biden.senate.gov)

A few months later, Biden signed a letter that urged the Justice Department "to prosecute individuals who intentionally allow mass copying from their computer over peer-to-peer networks." Critics of this approach said that the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, and not taxpayers, should pay for their own lawsuits.

Last year, Biden sponsored an RIAA-backed bill called the Perform Act aimed at restricting Americans' ability to record and play back individual songs from satellite and Internet radio services. (The RIAA sued XM Satellite Radio over precisely this point.)

All of which meant that nobody in Washington was surprised when Biden was one of only four U.S. senators invited to a champagne reception in celebration of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hosted by the MPAA's Jack Valenti, the RIAA, and the Business Software Alliance. (Photos are here.)

Now, it's true that few Americans will cast their votes in November based on what the vice presidential candidate thinks of copyright law. But these pro-copyright views don't exactly jibe with what Obama has promised; he's pledged to "update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated." These are code words for taking a more pro-EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) than pro-MPAA approach.

Unfortunately, Biden has steadfastly refused to answer questions on the topic. We asked him 10 tech-related questions, including whether he'd support rewriting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, as part of our 2008 Technology Voters' guide. Biden would not answer (we did hear back from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Ron Paul).

In our 2006 Technology Voters' Guide, which ranked Senate votes from July 1998 through May 2005, Biden received a mere 37.5 percent score because of his support for Internet filters in schools and libraries and occasional support for Internet taxes.

Privacy, the FBI, and PGP
On privacy, Biden's record is hardly stellar. In the 1990s, Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and introduced a bill called the Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Act, which the EFF says he was "persuaded" to do by the FBI. A second Biden bill was called the Violent Crime Control Act. Both were staunchly anti-encryption, with this identical language:

It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufacturers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.

Translated, that means turn over your encryption keys. The book Electronic Privacy Papers describes Biden's bill as representing the FBI's visible effort to restrict encryption technology, which was taking place in concert with the National Security Agency's parallel, but less visible efforts. (Biden was no foe of the NSA. He once described now-retired NSA director Bobby Ray Inman as the "single most competent man in the government.")

Biden's bill -- and the threat of encryption being outlawed -- is what spurred Phil Zimmermann to write PGP, thereby kicking off a historic debate about export controls, national security, and privacy. Zimmermann, who's now busy developing Zfone, says it was Biden's legislation "that led me to publish PGP electronically for free that year, shortly before the measure was defeated after vigorous protest by civil libertarians and industry groups."

While neither of Biden's pair of bills became law, they did foreshadow the FBI's pro-wiretapping, anti-encryption legislative strategy that followed -- and demonstrated that the Delaware senator was willing to be a reliable ally of law enforcement on the topic. (They also previewed the FBI's legislative proposal later that decade for banning encryption products such as SSH or PGP without government backdoors, which was approved by one House of Representatives committee but never came to a vote in the Senate.)

"Joe Biden made his second attempt to introduce such legislation" in the form of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which was also known as the Digital Telephony law, according to an account in Wired magazine. Biden at the time was chairman of the relevant committee; he co-sponsored the Senate version and dutifully secured a successful floor vote on it less than two months after it was introduced. CALEA became law in October 1994, and is still bedeviling privacy advocates: the FBI recently managed to extend its requirements to Internet service providers.

CALEA represented one step in the FBI and NSA's attempts to restrict encryption without backdoors. In a top-secret memo to members of President George H.W. Bush's administration including Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and CIA director Robert Gates, one White House official wrote: "Justice should go ahead now to seek a legislative fix to the digital telephony problem, and all parties should prepare to follow through on the encryption problem in about a year. Success with digital telephony will lock in one major objective; we will have a beachhead we can exploit for the encryption fix; and the encryption access options can be developed more thoroughly in the meantime."

There's another reason why Biden's legislative tactics in the CALEA scrum amount to more than a mere a footnote in Internet history. They're what led to the creation of the Center for Democracy and Technology -- and the Electronic Frontier Foundation's simultaneous implosion and soul-searching.

EFF staffers Jerry Berman and Danny Weitzner chose to work with Biden on cutting a deal and altering the bill in hopes of obtaining privacy concessions. It may have helped, but it also left the EFF in the uncomfortable position of leaving its imprimatur on Biden's FBI-backed wiretapping law universally loathed by privacy advocates. The debacle ended with internal turmoil, Berman and Weitzner leaving the group and taking their corporate backers to form CDT, and a chastened EFF that quietly packed its bags and moved to its current home in San Francisco. (Weitzner, who was responsible for a censorship controversy last year, became a formal Obama campaign surrogate.)

"Anti-terror" legislation
The next year, months before the Oklahoma City bombing took place, Biden introduced another bill called the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. It previewed the 2001 Patriot Act by allowing secret evidence to be used in prosecutions, expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws, creating a new federal crime of "terrorism" that could be invoked based on political beliefs, permitting the U.S. military to be used in civilian law enforcement, and allowing permanent detection of non-U.S. citizens without judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies said the bill would erode "constitutional and statutory due process protections" and would "authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations."

Biden himself draws parallels between his 1995 bill and its 2001 cousin. "I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill," he said when the Patriot Act was being debated, according to the New Republic, which described him as "the Democratic Party's de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism."

Biden's chronology is not accurate: the bombing took place in April 1995 and his bill had been introduced in February 1995. But it's true that Biden's proposal probably helped to lay the groundwork for the Bush administration's Patriot Act.

In 1996, Biden voted to keep intact an ostensibly anti-illegal immigration bill that outlined what the Real ID Act would become almost a decade later. The bill would create a national worker identification registry; Biden voted to kill an Abraham-Feingold amendment that would have replaced the registry with stronger enforcement. According to an analysis by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the underlying bill would have required "states to place Social Security numbers on drivers licenses and to obtain fingerprints or some other form of biometric identification for licenses."

Along with most of his colleagues in the Congress -- including Sen. John McCain but not Rep. Ron Paul -- Biden voted for the Patriot Act and the Real ID Act (which was part of a larger spending bill). Obama voted for the bill containing the Real ID Act, but wasn't in the U.S. Senate in 2001 when the original Patriot Act vote took place.

Patriot Act
In the Senate debate over the Patriot Act in October 2001, Biden once again allied himself closely with the FBI. The Justice Department favorably quotes Biden on its Web site as saying: "The FBI could get a wiretap to investigate the mafia, but they could not get one to investigate terrorists. To put it bluntly, that was crazy! What's good for the mob should be good for terrorists."

The problem is that Biden's claim was simply false -- which he should have known after a decade of experience lending his name to wiretapping bills on behalf of the FBI. As CDT explains in a rebuttal to Biden: "The Justice Department had the ability to use wiretaps, including roving taps, in criminal investigations of terrorism, just as in other criminal investigations, long before the Patriot Act."

But Biden's views had become markedly less FBI-friendly by April 2007, six years later. By then, the debate over wiretapping had become sharply partisan, pitting Democrats seeking to embarrass President Bush against Republicans aiming to defend the administration at nearly any cost. In addition, Biden had announced his presidential candidacy three months earlier and was courting liberal activists dismayed by the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping.

That month, Biden slammed the "president's illegal wiretapping program that allows intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans without a judge's approval or congressional authorization or oversight." He took aim at Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for allowing the FBI to "flagrantly misuse National Security Letters" -- even though it was the Patriot Act that greatly expanded their use without also expanding internal safeguards and oversight as well.

Biden did vote against a FISA bill with retroactive immunity for any telecommunications provider that illegally opened its network to the National Security Agency; Obama didn't. Both agreed to renew the Patriot Act in March 2006, a move that pro-privacy Democrats including Ron Wyden and Russ Feingold opposed. The ACLU said the renewal "fails to correct the most flawed provisions" of the original Patriot Act. (Biden does do well on the ACLU's congressional scorecard.)

"Baby-food bombs"
The ACLU also had been at odds with Biden over his efforts to censor bomb-making information on the Internet. One day after a bomb in Saudi Arabia killed several U.S. servicemen and virtually flattened a military base, Biden pushed to make posting bomb-making information on the Internet a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in jail, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

"I think most Americans would be absolutely shocked if they knew what kind of bone-chilling information is making its way over the Internet," he told the Senate. "You can access detailed, explicit instructions on how to make and detonate pipe bombs, light-bulb bombs, and even -- if you can believe it -- baby-food bombs."

Biden didn't get exactly what he wanted -- at least not right away. His proposal was swapped in the final law for one requiring the attorney general to investigate "the extent to which the First Amendment protects such material and its private and commercial distribution." The report was duly produced, concluding that the proposal "can withstand constitutional muster in most, if not all, of its possible applications, if such legislation is slightly modified."

It was. Biden and co-sponsor Dianne Feinstein introduced their bill again the following year. Biden pitched it as an anti-terror measure, saying in a floor debate that numerous terrorists "have been found in possession of bomb-making manuals and Internet bomb-making information." He added: "What is even worse is that some of these instructions are geared toward kids. They tell kids that all the ingredients they need are right in their parents' kitchen or laundry cabinets."

Biden's proposal became law in 1997. It didn't amount to much: four years after its enactment, there had been only one conviction. And instead of being used to snare a dangerous member of Al Qaeda, the law was used to lock up a 20-year old anarchist Webmaster who was sentenced to one year in prison for posting information about Molotov cocktails and "Drano bombs" on his Web site, Raisethefist.com.

Today there are over 10,000 hits on Google for the phrase, in quotes, "Drano bomb." One is a video that lists the necessary ingredients and shows some self-described rednecks blowing up small plastic bottles in their yard. Then there's the U.S. Army's Improvised Munitions Handbook with instructions on making far more deadly compounds, including methyl nitrate dynamite, mortars, grenades, and C-4 plastic explosive -- which free speech activists placed online as an in-your-face response to the Biden-Feinstein bill.

Peer-to-peer networks
Since then, Biden has switched from complaining about Internet baby-food bombs to taking aim at peer-to-peer networks. He held one Foreign Relations committee hearing in February 2002 titled "Theft of American Intellectual Property" and invited executives from the Justice Department, RIAA, MPAA, and Microsoft to speak. Not one Internet company, P2P network, or consumer group was invited to testify.

Afterwards, Sharman Networks (which distributes Kazaa) wrote a letter to Biden complaining about "one-sided and unsubstantiated attacks" on P2P networks. It said: "We are deeply offended by the gratuitous accusations made against Kazaa by witnesses before the committee, including ludicrous attempts to associate an extremely beneficial, next-generation software program with organized criminal gangs and even terrorist organizations."

Biden returned to the business of targeting P2P networks this year. In April, he proposed spending $1 billion in U.S. tax dollars so police can monitor peer-to-peer networks for illegal activity. He made that suggestion after a Wyoming cop demonstrated a proof-of-concept program called "Operation Fairplay" at a hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

A month later, the Senate Judiciary committee approved a Biden-sponsored bill that would spend over $1 billion on policing illegal Internet activity, mostly child pornography. It has the dubious virtue of being at least partially redundant: One section would "prohibit the broadcast of live images of child abuse," even though the Justice Department has experienced no problems in securing guilty pleas for underage Webcamming. (The bill has not been voted on by the full Senate.)

Online sales of Robitussin
Around the same time, Biden introduced his self-described Biden Crime Bill of 2007. One section expands electronic surveillance law to permit police wiretaps in "crimes dangerous to the life, limb, and well-being of minor children." Another takes aim at Internet-based telemedicine and online pharmacies, saying that physicians must have conducted "at least one in-person medical evaluation of the patient" to prescribe medicine.

Another prohibits selling a product containing dextromethorphan -- including Robitussin, Sucrets, Dayquil, and Vicks -- "to an individual under the age of 18 years, including any such sale using the Internet." It gives the Justice Department six months to come up with regulations, which include when retailers should be fined for shipping cough suppressants to children. (Biden is a longtime drug warrior; he authored the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act that the Bush administration used to shut down benefit concerts.)

Net neutrality
On Net neutrality, Biden has sounded skeptical. In 2006, he indicated that no preemptive laws were necessary because if violations do happen, such a public outcry will develop that "the chairman will be required to hold this meeting in this largest room in the Capitol, and there will be lines wandering all the way down to the White House." Obama, on the other hand, has been a strong supporter of handing pre-emptive regulatory authority to the Federal Communications Commission.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

politics- Obama, Biden, and the DNC

So it's official. Barak Obama has not chosen Hillary Clinton to be his Vice-President. He has chosen Senator Joe Biden from Delaware instead. I'd never heard of Senator Biden until now, but my husband has. He said he's not very popular in the geek world. A quick Google search told me that the NRA doesn't like him either. That's 2 strikes. Just now I found this link-

That doesn't speak well for him either. So far I haven't found anything to like about the guy. And I am wondering what will be next for Hillary too, although I'm not sure if I care. Hopefully at least she will be out of office for a while.

I did take a quick peek at the speakers and the festivities planned for the DNC this week. It sounds like a lot of fun, but honestly Obama still doesn't impress me.

I'm waiting now to see who McCain will pick as his Vice-President, and what will Ron Paul do? Is he doing anything anymore? Where will we see Hillary next? Secretary of something? or will she join the speakers circuits for a while to make some cash there and stay busy?

In any case, I don't think Biden will help Obama's campaign, and if people remember any of Biden's history, maybe just maybe it will hurt him as a candidate overall.

The race to November continues. Looking forward to the RNC next week, at least in the news etc.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer is ending so fast!!

It seems like it is still the middle of August, but summer is coming to a close soo quickly! The kids go back to elementary and high school this week. The colleges resume next Tuesday. Meanwhile I suspect we will have a bit of rain over Labor Day weekend. So when the weather forecast for this past weekend promised to be hot and sunny, I made it a point to get my family outside as much as possible.

Friday night we picked up Abby at daycare and went to Greenfield to have supper with friends at Pete's Seafood. We ate inside, but afterwards we found an empty parking lot and let the kids play for a while while the grownups chatted.

On Saturday it was off to the Cummington Fair. Admission was a little pricey ($8 per adult!) so we skipped the rides which were pricey too. We still had a good time watching the shows, seeing the animals, and generally wandering around. We did have snacks - sno-cones, fried dough (sugar pizza!), and cookies too. Even though it was expensive, and it took a while for Abby to warm up to the place, it was a lot of fun. We did a trip around the place with Abby in the stroller, then she decided to get out, and led us back through everything all over again. And cows, and cows, and she wasn't even scared. She even touched a bunny rabbit! Way to go Abby! This kid is afraid of animals most of the time, so it was amazing to see her enjoy them on this trip. We will definitely be visiting more barns and farms in the future. It might have been because the animals were all tied up or in pens but whatever the reason, she did great.
We waited until we got back to Greenfield to have a real lunch though. I wanted to go to the beach, and it was crowded when we came home, but Abby was asleep so it had to wait.

Sunday, I was a bit worried. We needed to go grocery shopping, but I wanted to get outside too. So after some stalling in the morning, we finally got out to Greenfield. Went to BJ's and did that as quick as we could- not hitting every aisle, just getting what we needed. Then we went to the Chinese place nearby for lunch. Letting Abby eat with "sticks" was also a priority for her too. She wanted noodles and French fries, but she managed to eat some chicken, carrots, and broccoli too. After lunch, we split up so we could finish our shopping in the same plaza. This gave us a little time outside going from store to store. When we were finally done, Abby asked us 3 times if we were done with the stores and then quickly fell asleep. I guess she was really afraid to miss something. We got home and let her finish her nap, and I was really losing hope that we would get outside for the evening.

After her nap she had taken her time (and we had let her) waking up, having a snack and watching some tv etc. Finally I just asked her "Do you want to go to the beach? Do you want to go outside?" She immediately turned off the tv and hopped out of daddy's lap to get ready. Yay! My husband and I both knew that dinner had to be made, but I also knew that we HAD to go to the beach. So after some quick negotiating Abby and I were on our way. It wasn't until we got out to the driveway with the wagon loaded up and everything that I found out that we were going to the LITTLE beach and not the big one. Either was fine with me. So we said good-bye to daddy a few times and headed off. Down the road with Abby in the wagon, watching out for dogs and cars to the little beach. Abby made it clear that she did NOT want to share her toys this time, and was happy that the kids nearby weren't home. When we got to the beach there were 2 girls, older than Abby, there with their father and a canoe. The sisters swam and played as Abby and I quickly got into the water. We had our own fun playing in the water, and Abby was thrilled when her daddy finally showed up. He surprised me by coming into the water even though he was wearing long pants. He even took Abby out deep, up to his waist, or higher. It made me nervous, but they had fun and I stayed nearby swimming where Abby and I could see each other. Finally he went back home to continue supper, and Abby and I played on the beach for a little while before she decided we needed to go home too. It was a lot of fun, and as I said, I know we won't have many more chances to do it this year.

When we got home, we got dry clothes on and went outside to play. The mosquitoes were a real mood-killer for me, but with some bug-0ff cream I did the best I could. When supper was ready (pork on the grill), we ate outside and then came in as soon as we were done. My husband went back out to make s'mores on the grill before he put the fire out. Yum, yum!

We finally calmed down and got Abby to bed sometime after 9pm. Really was a great weekend. Lots of little things, but it all added up to.... wonderful. I should have taken pictures. Probably one of my favorite weekends of the summer!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some fiction.... the Story of the Purple Dragons

This is a story I wrote last night for my daughter Abby. My copyright, etc. Don't use this anywhere without my permission, and giving me credit. And if you'd like to help me with some artwork, let me know.

Once upon a time in a land far, far away lived the purple dragons. They were very nice dragons who liked to help people. They lived in the mountains with the people who made things from Play-doh. The Mountain People made bowls and cups and spoons. They made tables and chairs and other things too. Then the Purple dragons used their magic fire breath to make the things hard and strong so they would not break. When the tables and chairs were cool again, the Orange Dragons used their magic to make the bowls and cups beautiful colors- orange, red, purple, green, and blue, and pink, and shiny. Then they added the glitter and everything was very pretty.

When the Orange dragons were done making everything glittery and pretty, the Mountain People took all the things made from Play-Doh down to the Valley where the river was. The Valley people had lots of yummy things to eat. They had apples, oranges, strawberries, and good vegetables. The Mountain People gave the Valley People the bowls and spoons and cups, and then the Valley People gave them the oranges and apples and all the yummy things to eat. Then everyone had a big feast, a very large meal. They ate until they were very full.

Then the Mountain People went back up to the mountains to make more things with the dragons, and bring them some of the good food too.

The end.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

more Disney planning

I think our plans are almost finalized, as best as we can do them anyway. I've got our tickets, made reservations for our hotel, and booked our rental car. I've made a few ADRs (advance dining reservations), and tried to highlight which parks would be best to go to on which days.
My next thing is to put all the info into organized places. I'm using Google maps, the Google calendar, and I think I will use Google documents too. I need to put all our confirmation numbers and other details into one easily usable place so I'm still working on that.
Meanwhile my mother in law is trying to decide what she wants to do, and I need to write a letter to my mother soon too. But my mom is still coping with her boyfriend's health so I'm trying not to push too much there.

only a few more weeks before we go. yay!!!

New Hampshire and my mother

In the midst of all this daycare craziness, my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. An advertisement drew me to book a room at the Radisson in Nashua, NH at the last minute for Friday night. We got out of work a little early because of a power failure (which kept us home on Monday too), stopped at the house for some essentials, and then picked up Abby at daycare. Stopped at McDonald's in Orange for supper, and then drove up to the castle-like hotel. It was very nice, and a great quick getaway. In the morning the prices scared us away from breakfast, and we headed to the nearby mall for Dunkin Donuts and some shopping. After a couple of hours there, Abby was well worn out. So we headed up to Tilton, NH where I had heard they had a Tangers Outlet. Since Abby was still asleep when we got off the exit, we drove over to Laconia for a quick look at some of the lake area before we finally stopped for lunch and shopping. The rain from the night before was long gone, and it was a beautiful sunny day. I got our AAA coupons from the outlet office, and a $5 gift card for being good outlet shoppers (visiting more than one Tanger Outlet within a year or something) and we headed over to Uno Pizzeria or whatever it was for lunch. We spent the afternoon shopping, not buying a whole lot, but having fun looking in the stores. Abby got a new pair of boots, and a backpack. My husband got some new clothes and a new skillet. We all got overpriced bottled water at Starbucks. Abby even got to play on the playground for a little while.
When we were done we headed up to Burger King for a quick supper before we hit the road to come home, a long drive.
Now let me say this, where it can be easily seen.... Burger King in Tilton, NH has the most disgustingly gross bathrooms I have seen in a long time. The toilet bowls themselves were brown. And since it was a Burger King, it had no diaper deck of course, so I had to deal with a kid who would not use the toilet because it was so gross, and then I had to get down on the dirty bathroom floor to change her diaper. Thanks a lot folks. We had a great time in Tilton, but I'll never go there again, even if the playspace was fun.

The reason why we pushed so hard to get back on Saturday night, even though Saturday was our anniversary was because my mother was in the area, and we were supposed to have brunch with her on Sunday morning. Unfortunately when we got home there was a message from my mother saying she was having trouble with her cell phone. When she called us Sunday morning, it became apparent pretty quickly that we would not be meeting for brunch. She pretty much insisted that we drive all the way to the D.A.R. campground in Goshen to meet her, even though we'd already spent way too many hours in the car the day before.

We decided to do brunch at the Union Station in Northampton without her, and then we went. By the time we got to the campground it was just starting to thunder. After a couple of quick hellos, the rain came. She didn't want to leave the campground. She was barely dressed, and freezing, but wouldn't leave the campsite anyway. We left.

Later that night my mother packed up her gear and headed back to Florida, cutting her visit short by about a week. On the way, she had trouble with her rental car, and gave away her camp wood. A day or two after she got home, her boyfriend had a heart attack and almost died. I guess it's good she went home early, but it still would have been nice to have seen her for more than 5 minutes while she was here. It turned out that work was closed on Monday, so we could have spent that day with her if she'd still been around, and she still would have made it home in time for her boyfriend's heart attack.

Oh, and if you are wondering, we didn't do much for anniversary gifts. The trip was pretty much it. That and I gave him a card, and he gave me 2 cards- 1 serious, 1 fun.